Unusual child support order focuses on tuition

For many New York parents who divorce, the financial support for their shared children is a top concern. Child support determinations comprise a significant portion of the divorce negotiations, and each family has the right to decide on a support plan that meets their own unique needs. Many families include the cost of a college education in their child support agreement, but parents should be wary of how this part of their divorce settlement is worded.

One area father has recently learned the hard way that the details of such an agreement must be clearly spelled out in writing to avoid potential disputes when it comes time to write tuition checks. He and his former wife agreed to cover the cost of their daughter’s postgraduate education, should she decide to pursue a law degree. However, when the time came to begin those studies, father and daughter were estranged, leading to a dispute that recently went before a family court judge.

Within the divorce agreement, the only condition placed upon the obligation of the parents to pay for their daughter’s legal education was that she maintain a “C” average during her studies. However, the father argued in court that it was also expected that she begin her postgrad work within a year or two after receiving her undergraduate degree, and that she attend Rutgers University, where her father is a professor. Instead, she chose Cornell Law School, where tuition runs approximately $225,000.

In court, the judge ruled that because there were no such conditions outlined within the divorce settlement, the father is responsible for covering half of the cost of his daughter’s tuition. For parents in New York who are negotiating the details of their own divorce settlements concerning child support, this ruling serves as a warning of the importance of including any and all stipulations on an agreement to send their child to college. Failing to do so can lead to serious financial hardship if the cost of tuition and expenses runs higher than expected.

Source: nj.com, NJ court orders divorced father to pay half of daughter’s pricey law school expenses, Jeff Goldman, March 5, 2014